Why Pro-Lifers Should Vote Blue: Intro

Why Pro-Lifers Should Vote Blue: Intro February 19, 2020

The issue of abortion has been the chief political rallying point for conservative Catholics and evangelicals for fifty years, the non-negotiable point that has kept them tied to the GOP and away from the Democrats. No matter what other moral principles are at stake—war, care for the poor, immigration, affordable health care—nothing, it is argued, can justify refusing to protect the lives of innocents in the womb.

I agree with that. It’s because I agree with it that I think we have a moral duty to vote for the Democrats.

Not absolutely (no political affiliation could in my view ever be absolute, or it would be idolatrous), but in our present context. I think that the theological underpinnings of a Catholic approach to politics, the actual priorities and track record of our two viable parties, and the actual causes of abortion, considered together, justify a blue vote far better than a red one, especially but not only with Trump in the White House. I’ll deal with those in my next, but here, I want to address the forms of political calculus we employ in the first place.

As far as I can see, there are basically three ways of approaching this issue politically as a pro-life person:
1. Single-issue voting: abortion is treated as outweighing all other moral considerations (both singly and collectively), and so only pro-life candidates can ever be licitly voted for for any office. Though widely held to be the most Catholic stance (1), this actually conflicts with Catholic social teaching (or CST, of which more later).
2. “Seamless garment,” rigorist version: CST as a whole is a seamless garment, and cannot be torn apart for the benefit of political gain. (2) Accordingly, since both of our main political parties espouse policies that violate CST, Catholics must either abstain from voting, or cast their vote for a party or candidate (e.g. the American Solidarity Party) that does embody CST.
3. “Seamless garment,” prudentialist version: CST as a whole is a seamless garment, and cannot be torn apart for the benefit of political gain. Accordingly, since both of our main political parties espouse policies that violate CST, Catholics must make a judgment call about which viable party or candidate will do less harm to the common good than the other (since we have a reasonable confidence that one or the other will be elected).

The problem with the single-issue approach is twofold: first, things other than abortion actually do matter, and this approach effectively treats them as if they don’t. Second, single-issue voting operates as though the most important response to abortion is legally banning it—which is not the same thing as stopping it from happening. Illegal abortions happen in pro-life states, and mothers choose to keep babies instead of getting abortions in pro-choice ones; so the single-issue approach, if it really wants to sell itself as the only valid choice, actually has to treat making abortion illegal as more important than reducing the number of abortions that occur. That’s not a morally coherent view.

Again, I am pro-life myself. And I’m not saying that in some sort of technical or spiritualized sense: I think that every human life should be recognized as such by the law from the moment it begins, i.e. conception. Because I cannot make any sense of a theory of law that does not treat the right to live as fundamental, and then turns around and argues for any other human right. But single-issue voting, exalting laws against abortion at the expense of every other consideration, including things like universal health care that actually allow human beings to, you know, live, does the exact same thing. It exalts the letter of the law over the value of actual human lives.

There is a good case to be made for either version of the seamless garment approach. The USCCB’s guide to Catholic voters sets forth both as valid. In fact, I think we need to have both expressed among Catholic voters, or we will slide either into a spineless pragmatism or a useless idealism, neither of which actually observe the command to contribute to the common good. But I’m not really concerned with the people who choose to adopt the rigorist approach: not because it’s unworthy of discussion, but just because they have already ruled out both voting blue and voting red, and so my arguments are (quite rightly) irrelevant to them. So I want to take the prudentialist approach as my baseline and work from there.

The Misters President; The Unsafety Net

Images via Pixabay

(1) I specify Catholic here advisedly. I’m sure there are Christian traditions that define abortion this way as a matter of faith, though even growing up in the pro-life movement I encountered few of them.

(2) The expression comes from John 19.23-24: Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was woven without seam from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which said, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots.

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  • PeterDamian

    Democrats want to force taxpayers to pay for abortion. They have stopped talking about wanting abortion to be safe, legal and rare. Also considering how Podesta and others tied to Clinton have been trying to orchestrate a Catholic spring and how Trump will likely get to replace Ginsburg with an anti-Roe Judge if he wins again, I am hoping for a red wave in 2020.

  • Naters

    What if Justin Amash runs for the LP? Not only would you have someone who’s truly pro-life, but someone who’s actually likable.

  • Garvey’s Ghost

    Isnt lying a sin?

  • PeterDamian

    How did I lie?

  • Garvey’s Ghost

    How are dems making you pay for an abortion?

  • PeterDamian

    They want to repeal the Helms amendment which prohibits public funding for abortion. They want free abortion as part of free health care.

  • NONE of what you have said would lead me to vote for either the stalinist Bernie or the Gay Pete. Their philosophy is one of forced human extermination. Just like Governor Kate Brown of Oregon.

    Sorry, you are on drugs if you believe that Democrats are anything other than Genocidal maniacs.

    I have ZERO respect for democrats, and I have 61 million reasons since 1973 to be a single issue voter. NO other issue comes close to the 61 million lives lost between abortion and euthanasia.

  • Here in Oregon, Abortion and Euthanasia are 100% taxpayer funded, ripped from our paychecks before we even see them. THAT is what genocidal mania looks like. Democrats like Governor Kate Brown are Nazis- killing 9000 children a year off of my paycheck.

    Your point of view is completely unsupportable, as are the rest of you Limousine Liberal Nazis.

  • They succeeded in that “Catholic Spring” by using homosexual abusive Bishops to force Pope Benedict XVI to resign and replace him with the abusive Pope Francis.

  • You Democrats are liars and frauds.

  • PeterDamian

    I fear that might be true, if so let’s hope that a re-elected Trump together with Bolsonaro and a Nationalist Italy may force the usurper to step down and restore the legitimate pope.

  • Not a chance at this point. They’ve got him locked up and drugged up. It will be 500 years before we see orthodoxy again.

  • Julie

    It’s not the Helms amenment, it’s the HYDE amendment.

  • garedawg

    What if the Democrats favored bringing back black slavery? If you would still vote for them, then congratulations, you are consistent. If not, then please explain how abortion is less evil than slavery.

  • Gabriel Blanchard

    I don’t want to see mere abuse in my combox, Mr Seeber. It is uncharitable, unfair, and unpersuasive. I will delete any further comments of yours that are just insults, and if necessary I will ban you, given that you have shown a history of this repellent behavior.

  • PeterDamian

    The Helms amedment is a similar amendment to the Hyde amendment, except ir primarily limits taxpayer funding for foreign aid that funds abortion instead of national health care.

  • PeterDamian

    The Helms amedment is a similar amendment to the Hyde amendment, except it primarily limits taxpayer funding for foreign aid that funds abortion instead of national health care.

  • PeterDamian

    Well said. I couldn’t agree more. The last Democrat I would have voted for was Hubert Humphrey in 1968. He was strongly pro-life. I also want the Democratic Party to be completely upon about their links to McCarrick and Cupich. An commentator by the name of Jerry Slevin appears to have a lot of inside knowledge on this issue. He seems to be tied to SNAP, the Clintons and the Catholic spring.

  • PeterDamian

    I am not sure whether prophecy supports that. If restoring Benedict XVI isn’t possible, then we still have the possible successor to Siri. Other forms of similar intervention might be possible.

  • Garvey’s Ghost

    Yes and I’m sure you.

  • Oregon House Bill 3391, signed into law September 2017 for abortion. HB 4135 for involuntary euthanasia by dehydration and starvation.


    A more comprehesive look on the issues at hand perhaps will lead to God guiding us in making a right choice. Ultimately, it is every individual’s right to make a decision. God willing, may your decision not be a regretable one.

  • Gerald Aulandez

    Gabriel (hi!), as an arguably pro-life religious person (not Catholic), at least as regards my moral inclinations, I pretty much agree with everything you have to say here, but wonder how much this really applies in a party-wide way. Does party affiliation alone tell us much about a candidates willingness to pursue policies consistent with CST or any other moral framework?

    I think it’s also worth considering which policies do the most to reduce abortions. That’s not fundamentally a political question, and I suspect it doesn’t align neatly with the goals of those who support particular policies. I’ve seen no evidence that banning abortion is better at reducing abortion than promoting comprehensive healthcare access for all potential mothers. Of course, it’s perfectly possible to both ban something and take actions to prevent it through education and social programs (take murder for example), so nothing here is cut and dry.

    Unrelated, but I wonder if you have any thought about the controversy surrounding Querida Amazonia; I read most of it a bit after it was released and found it almost shockingly moving, relevant, and direct. I just got back from some time near the Amazon, experiencing some different but connected ecological issues, and was so touched (as always) by the power that Catholic social theology can have to address the crises of the day. And then (as always) I’ve been pretty heartbroken and repulsed by the petty and shallow way that the media and most Catholics (on all “sides” of the related issues) online have received it.

    Hope you are doing well!